What is the actual expense method?
In order to use the actual expenses method, an accurate and detailed mileage log is required. This is most critical in a vehicle that is used for both business and personal transportation. The mileage must reflect the total mileage put on the odometer in the tax year, as well as details (described below) of all miles driven. These figures are then used to determine the percentage of allowable expenses associated with business use.
The actual expense method involves tracking all expenses related to the operation and maintenance of the vehicle, and then allocating the total expenses based on the percentage of business use. Some of the costs that can be included in total expenses are depreciation, repairs, maintenance, tires, fuel, insurance, and title and registration fees.
What is the standard mileage Rate?
The standard mileage rate method is a simplified method of calculating deductible vehicle expense. To use this method the total business miles driven is multiplied by the standard mileage rate to determine the associated expense. (10,000 miles x $0.545 = $5,450)
The standard mileage rate is up one cent in 2018 to 54.5 cents per mile. The rate is calculated each year by the IRS and incorporates expenses such as gas, repairs, depreciation and insurance, on a per mile basis. Thus, you cannot deduct individual repairs, fuel, or any other expense if you elect to use the standard mileage method. Loan interest on a vehicle is not included in the standard mileage rate so it can be deducted in addition to the amount calculated using the standard mileage rate.
Which method should I use?
If you are not prohibited from using one of the methods as discussed earlier, you will likely choose the method that provides the greatest deduction. These results can vary greatly based on any number of factors, so let’s take a look at a couple examples.
Example. A small business owner, Fred, drove 10,000 total miles for the year. Of those miles, 5000 were directly related to the business (50%). The total vehicle expenses incurred during the year totaled $8500 (gas, insurance, repairs, etc.).
Under the actual expense method, Fred would be allowed a deduction of $4,250. This figure is calculated by multiplying the total expenses by the percentage of business use ($8500 x 50% = $4,250).
Under the standard mileage rate method, Fred would be allowed a deduction of $2,725. This figure is calculated by multiplying the business miles driven by the standard mileage rate (5,000 mi. x $0.545 = $2,725).
Fred may elect to use the actual expense method as it yields a higher deduction than the standard mileage rate method.
Example. Another business owner, Ethel, drove 42,500 total miles for the year of which 25,000 miles were directly related to business (70%). The total vehicle expenses incurred during the year totaled $12,750 (gas, insurance, repairs, etc.).
Under the actual expense method, Ethel would be allowed a deduction of $8,925. This figure is calculated by multiplying the total expenses by the percentage of business use ($12,750 x 70% = $8,925).
Under the standard mileage rate method, Ethel would be allowed a deduction of $13,625. This figure is calculated by multiplying the business miles driven by the standard mileage rate (25,000 mi. x $0.545 = $13,625).
Ethel may elect to use the standard mileage rate method as it yields a higher deduction than the actual expense method.
As shown in our examples, which method will offer the greatest benefit depends on many factors, and can have a significant impact on total expenses, net income for the year, and your tax burden. It is imperative you keep accurate detailed records of ALL miles driven and actual vehicle expenses. This is not only required by the IRS in order to substantiate your deduction, it is necessary to determine which method will benefit you the most.
The IRS requirements for tracking business mileage driven include date, destination, origin, and miles traveled. If you use the same vehicle for both business use and personal use, regardless of the percentage, you must track total miles as well as business miles by recording the odometer reading at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year.
Passenger Auto Limits
It is important to note the limits imposed by the IRS on depreciation of passenger autos. The IRS defines a passenger automobile as any four-wheeled vehicle made primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways and rated at 6,000 pounds or less of unloaded gross vehicle weight (at 6,000 pounds or less of gross vehicle weight for trucks and vans). Heavy SUV’s, pickups, and vans are generally classified as listed property, and are subject to the same business-use substantiation rules as passenger automobiles. If you are unsure of these classifications and the subsequent tax treatment please consult your tax preparer.
There’s an app for that!
As is the case with most things these days, there are several apps that allows users to track and record each mile driven. The most popular is MileIQ and may be one of the easiest ways to meet the requirements of IRS documentation. MileIQ automatically tracks and calculates your mileage for each trip and keeps a detailed mileage log that will stand up to IRS scrutiny.
We have received great feedback from clients about MileIQ’s ease of use, and best of all it is free to try. With the free version you will be able to log 40 drives per month. However, if you drive more frequently, and require unlimited tracking, you can upgrade to the premium option for $5.99 per month or $59.99 annually. It is also available in a “Team” version which allows for multiple vehicles and drivers.